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Looking for a violin on Amazon can be clunky and, at times, discouraging. The massive online retailer is a combination of Amazon Wharehouse products and an enormous list of 3rd party sellers. Some sell quality products, and others sell complete junk. Violins fall victim to this scheme as well, with Amazon selling a large number of VSOs or violin-shaped objects.
VSOs look like a violin but are made poorly, challenging to play, and sound horrible. Beginners that start with a VSO will have difficulty learning and advancing. Violins are built using precise measurements and techniques, VSOs are not built using the same precision, and at best, require significant adjustment to be playable.
Searching on Amazon
While VSOs are rampant, a few good brands sell quality, inexpensive violins, cellos, and other instruments. Some are recognizable brands, such as Cecilio and their sister company Mendini. Both companies have been reviewed and vetted by some of the most prominent violinists online, including Pierre and Michael Holstein, owners of Fiddlershop, and Allison, the online piano and violin tutor. Others, such as DZ Strad and Bunnel, aren’t as well known amongst violinists but have garnered high reviews and a wide array of options. When searching for a violin on Amazon, employ these tips to find a quality instrument:
- Search using user reviews and always filter to 4 stars or higher.
- Sort by average customer review.
- Use an extension like ReviewMeta to filter out fake reviews and get an accurate star rating.
- Research all Violins outside of Amazon, look for video reviews on Youtube, review articles, and forum opinions.
What to Look for in a Violin Online
Now that you’ve sorted through the reviews and found the decent violins, it’s time to check out the specs. The specs can tell you a lot about a violin and its quality. For example, the longer the wood is aged, the more value the instrument has. However, be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Not all sellers are honest, and they will take shortcuts to save on costs.
- Aged Wood
- Information about the wood available
- Hand-carved, maple back and sides, spruce top, and ebony fittings are keywords to search out.
- Quality accessories and strings used for setup.
- Professional setup.
- Quality case with a suspension system.
- Genuine Wood purfling, not paint or tape
- Reasonable return policy
- Warranty information
- Reports of paint being used on the fingerboard to make it black or as purfling on the body.
- Fittings like the fine tuners and pegs are plastic.
- A bridge that hasn’t been fit to the instrument. The bridge should have notches on the top where the strings go.
- Lacquer finish instead of a varnish.
- Composite wood is used. Composite wood is not strong enough to keep the violin together.
- Lack of a return policy.
I chose these instruments based on the steps and flags outlined above. I also turned to my own experience in purchasing instruments from Amazon and focused on brands that were familiar and considered quality. All of the instruments below make great beginning instruments from a range of price points. Keep in mind that these instruments will not sound like the ones you hear in movies, in orchestras, or from famous musicians. These instruments are meant for the beginner, and a beginner will sound horrible at first. They will, however, allow you, your child, or your student to grow as a musician and get them on the right path.
Mendini is Cecilio’s sister company, and they specialize in extreme budget violins, with their most expensive violin being only 180 dollars. These violins are for beginners and will need to be upgraded within the first year or two. I highly recommend purchasing a better bow for either of these outfits.
MV300 Satin Antique Violin Outfit is an inexpensive violin outfit that can get you started for as little as 100 dollars without the book and tuner. This instrument is designed to get students started and through roughly their first theory book or two.
While this violin is not a long-term solution, and when you or your child/student feels ready to join an orchestra, an upgrade to something more fitting of an advancing student. Still, this is a quality violin with a hand-carved spruce top, maple back and sides, and ebony fittings. The fingerboard is made out of maple, which is acceptable but generally not ideal. However, at such a low price point, it’s a non-factor as an upgrade will be in order well before the fingerboard starts to degrade.
- Extremely inexpensive for an entire outfit.
- Decent quality for the price.
- Good starter violin.
- Not a violin that can grow with a student.
- Sound quality will hold a student back from developing a good tone.
- Maple fingerboard instead of ebony.
MV400 Violin Outfit is a slight upgrade to the MV300. There is not much difference between the two violins outside of general look. The MV400 uses a light varnish instead of a dark antique varnish. The violin also uses completely ebony fittings, including the fingerboard, which is a welcome upgrade in longevity. This outfit also comes with two bows, but I still recommend upgrading to a better bow. Check out the Violin Accessories post here! (link)
- Ebony fingerboard!
- Slight upgrade in quality.
- Inexpensive for an entire outfit.
- Cheap bows, requiring an upgrade
- Not a long-term violin solution.
- Overall, outfit accessories are cheaply made and prone to breaking.
Cecilio is a well-respected beginner violin brand that caters to a wide variety of budgets. The name is derived from the patron saint of music St Cecilia, and the violins are made in California instead of in China, giving them a leg up to the Mendini branded line.
CVN-500 Solidwood Violin is well price beginning violin that will stick with you through intermediate studies. A step up to Mendini branded instruments, the CVN-500 comes with a solid spruce top and flamed maple back, neck, and sides with inlaid purfling and an antique finish. All fittings include the fingerboard, are made out of pure ebony wood.
The violin is strung using D’Addario prelude strings, an upgraded steel core string popular among advancing violinists. The outfit comes with two bows, a case, rosin, a tuner, and a shoulder rest. Like the Mendini instruments, I suggest you get a different bow, as the bows provided will not be of great quality.
- Ebony fittings!
- Upgraded D’Addario Prelude strings.
- An inexpensive violin that will last a few years
- Cheaply made accessories, including the bow.
- Wood is not aged for improved tone.
- Despite obvious upgrades, these instruments are still made in a factory setting in China.
CVN-600 Hand Oil Rub Highly Flamed Violin is a considerable step up to the Mendini instruments and the CVN-500. The violin features a hand-carved, highly flamed one-piece maple back and sides that have been aged over seven years and a solid grained spruce top. The violin itself uses a hand-rubbed oil finish instead of varnish and the purfling in inlaid.
The fittings and fingerboard are pure ebony, and the tailpiece comes with four detachable fine tuners for customization. The violin is strung with D’Addario Prelude strings and comes with two bows, rosin cake, shoulder, tuner, and a nice oblong case. The bows with the set are passable, but if an upgraded bow can never hurt.
- A considerable upgrade to the CVN-500
- Wood is aged for over seven years and hand-rubbed with oil.
- Quality Accessories for the price point
- Strung with steel core strings, despite being better suited for synthetic strings.
- Not professionally set up.
- Shipping causes damage due to a lack of protection for the instrument.
DZ Strad is a well-known online violin store based out of White Plains, New York. They operate through their website dzstrad.com and Amazon. Many of their violin packages are exclusive to Amazon. They sell orchestral string instruments, along with accessories and fine or antique instruments. They also rent instruments to students who don’t want to commit to buying.
DZ Strad Violin 100 is a versatile violin that teachers of the Suzuki method favor. It is set up by professional luthiers in New York before shipping and comes with all ebony fittings. The tailpiece is the popular Wittner-style tailpiece with built-in fine tuners. The violin is made out of aged maple and spruce with antique varnish. The outfit includes a case, bow, shoulder rest, and rosin.
- Set-up by professional luthiers in New York.
- Wittner-style tailpiece.
- Will stay with a student through their advancing studies.
- The outfit is more expensive and includes less than Medini and Cecilio.
- Wood is not aged
- Unspecified bow maker.
DZ Strad Violin 220 is an upgrade to the 100 and will follow a student longer into the intermediate playing stage than other instruments. The violin is made 100% by hand and professional set-up.
Its made out of Englemann spruce and maple and has boxwood fittings with an ebony fingerboard for a more natural wood look. The outfit includes a case, bow, rosin, and shoulder rest. Lastly, the violin is strung with dominant strings, a favorite among advancing and intermediate students.
- 100% handmade and set up.
- Strung with dominant synthetic strings.
- Rock maple bridge.
- Very expensive
- Unspecified bow maker.
- Basic accessories for the price.
Kennedy Violin Store
The Kennedy Violin Store has been in business for over 15 years at their Vancouver location. Now online, they offer a wide variety of stringed instruments for all types of musicians and price points. Their in-house branded violins like Bunnel, Antonio Guiliani, and Louis Carpini are only offered through Kennedy Violins and are made to their professional standards, measurements, and specifications. Instruments are under a limited lifetime warranty covering any defects, while accessories are under a year warranty. They also offer a 45-day money-back guarantee and instrument upgrades.
Antonio Guiliani Primo Violin is a high-quality violin that will complement students as they progress and even join orchestras. The instrument is set up to follow the Suzuki method. It is made out of solid carved spruce and maple, hand-rubbed oil, and spirit varnish. The tone is warm, bright, and sweet.
The outfit comes with a portland classic case, a Guiliani Premier brazilwood bow, and Guiliani rosin. The violin comes strung with prelude strings but an upgrade to D’addario Zyex Strings is recommended. Extra lines, a tuner, Suzuki book one, a shoulder, and a polishing cloth are included.
- Assembled and quality checked in the US.
- Struing with D’addario Zyex Strings.
- Comes with a quality bow and other accessories.
- Wood is not aged
- Expensive for a young student.
Louis Carpini G2 Violin Outfit is a top-tier student violin, perfect for an advancing student or perhaps someone who started on a Medini or Cecilio model and is looking to upgrade. The violin is made out of flamed maple back and sides with a spruce top. Inlaid ebony purfling, hand-carved, custom French Aubert maple bridge with high ebony pegs, chinrest, and fingerboard round out the instrument.
The composite tailpiece with four built-in tuners is durable and user-friendly. The outfit comes with a portland elite case, Guiliani Brazilwood bows, and Kaplan Artcraft rosin. The experts at Kennedy Violins recommend upgrading the strings from Prelude to Ayex and eventually acquiring a bigger case for growing accessories and music.
- Custom French Aubert ample bridge.
- Composite tailpiece for durability and quality.
- Comes with quality accessories.
- Comes with brazilwood bows instead of upgraded carbon fiber or Pernambuco. For the price, a better bow should be included.
- Very expensive.
- Strung with prelude strings, should be strung with synthetic strings from the get-go.
At a certain point, some students wish to branch out of their acoustic violin comfort and experiment with the world of electric violins. Electric violins like electric guitars require amplification to sound decent. Some come with built-in amplification, while others require an amplifier. Many electric violins on the market can do both, making them versatile instruments when practicing in small or shared spaces. Additionally, an electric violin can be hooked up to different peddles or a peddle board for various effects. I don’t recommend learning exclusively on an electric violin. It’s easier to learn and develop your ear and tone and understand the nuances of the violin when you learn on an acoustic violin.
Electric Violin Bunnel Edge Outfit is an electric violin from our friends at the Kennedy Violin Store. The Bunnel Edge Electric Violin outfit is a quality outfit that comes with everything you need to get started. The violin is set up with a Piezo ceramic pick up in the United States. The violin features control sliders for tone and volume adjustment, a 9-volt battery slot, 1/4″ output cable, and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
It comes strung with Prelude Strings and backup steel core strings. The outfit comes with Giuliani Brazilwood Bow, Portland Case, rosin, over-ear headphones, Bunnel mini-amp. It’s an excellent value for the price and will allow you to get started right away!
- Incredible value for the price. I’m a little tempted to pick one of these up myself for fun.
- Includes an amp! You can start shredding right away! Violin is the new guitar!
- Quality bow for the price!
- Not the most attractive style.
Cecilio CEVN-2BK Style 2 Silent Electric Violin is Cecilio’s electric violin offering. The violin comes in multiple colors and both 3/4 and 4/4 sizes. The body is made out of hand-carved maple, and it comes with an ebony fingerboard, pegs, chin rest, and tailpiece. There are four fine tuners and a 9V battery slot with a battery included. The outfit consists of a brazilwood bow, rosin, aux cable, and on-ear headphones.
- Extremely inexpensive
- Decent quality for the price.
- Lacks accessories that would make the outfit more enticing.
- Cheap uncomfortable headphones.
The world of violins is vast on Amazon. From the wall decor instruments to instruments that will last you will years, whatever you hunt for, you can find it. For a budding violinist, perhaps one that has never held a violin before, it can be tempting to get the first instrument that pops up or buy the cheapest or most expensive product. Unfortunately, you may find yourself with a lemon of a violin. Following the searching criteria and thoroughly researching an instrument before you buy it can save you time, money, and frustration during the learning process.
Answer: This ultimately depends on the person playing the violin. If you are a brand new student, purchasing a cheaper violin can help you decide if the instrument is suitable for you without spending too much money on it. Students who have started on a more affordable instrument or have rented an instrument may upgrade to one of the most expensive recommendations. Students who are very determined to stick with it may find they want an instrument that will grow with them longer.
Answer: Yes! A violin and a fiddle are the same things. The only difference is the technique and music repertoire being played. Violins often play classical music that encompasses any number of emotions, themes, and styles. Fiddle music tends to be associated with country music and follows a very twangy sound. Students will play both fiddle and classical music as they learn. In many ways, combining the fiddle and classical violin has created the pop violin from artists like Lindsey Stirling.
Answer: Violins are expensive because of the time, material, and skill that goes into making them. Cheaper instruments are often made in a factory setting by several different luthiers with different skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses. Expensive instruments are more likely to be made by a small group or one or two master luthiers. Master Luthiers have been at their craft for a long time and have achieved great success, in some cases even won awards with their instruments. Most expensive violins are usually antiques that have stood the test of time and very odd circumstances in some cases.
Answer: Violins were invented in the mid 16th century in northern Italy. Andre Amati from Cremona and Gasparo di Bertolotti from Salon were two of the earliest makers of the modern violin.
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